The upcoming paradise destination for beach holidays — discover Agadir
This year in March just before all the borders were closed down in Europe and most of Africa, I was lucky enough to have 12 days planned of holidays in the country which is only 4 to 5 hours away but is already warm and very different from the Netherlands. The recent trip we took was to a country called Morocco. As with most of my trips, I like to plan myself and check out what I can explore while visiting one or another land. Morocco was no exception. I had an idea of combining a lied back beach holiday and getting some tan together with travelling around and exploring.
Since I want to give insightful tips & tricks on how to get around and what to expect in Morocco, I am making separate videos about each region/city we have visited and explored. I hope this article and video are informative enough and answer most of your questions. Here it goes my experiences in Morocco.
As I mentioned, we planned a 12 days trip with staying in different places. These were: Agadir, Essaouira, Marrakesh and Casablanca. Before we mapped the full route, I had a couple of wishes for this trip. Number one: To have a few days, especially at the beginning more relaxed, beach type of holiday. Number two: I wanted to rent a car to travel between the cities. Number three: really explore and see how different parts of the country looks like and how people are living there.
We flew to Agadir with a direct flight from Amsterdam and returned with a direct flight from Casablanca. The things we took care of in advance were aeroplane tickets purchased around 1.5 months in advance before the trip, we have pre-booked our hotels via booking.com based on other travellers’ experiences and ratings. We booked those around the same time as the flight tickets. Additionally, we also pre-booked and prepaid for our car which I would not think was necessary, given that you could maybe even get a better deal when pre-booking at the spot. Because again, even I pre-booked with an American Express card which listed that insurance is included, at the agency we needed to pay extra for all-included insurance which was additionally 25 EUR per day! And to be honest, if you are renting a car in Morocco — make sure you get all the possible insurances. The driving there in the bigger cities — it is something very special. Better safe than sorry but about that in a bit.
We left Amsterdam around 7 AM in the morning and around noon time we were landing in Agadir. The airport of Agadir is very small and cosy, has all kind of essentials. There will be a passport check post — so make sure you have your visa ready upfront If you need one. Once it is done, they stamp your passport and you are good to go. Before you exit the airport, don’t be surprised that you will be asked to scan your bags one more time before entering the country. They do that to scan in case you are bringing something illegal. For example — a drone. Yes… Guess who tried to bring his drone and did not know that the royalty of Morocco kingdom has forbidden all the drones in the country. I know, I know… next time I will google the crap out of each country about the drone policy before going on holidays.
Morocco is the country where you need to tip and pay for every word you exchange with the stranger. I will be honest with you, if you look far away from being local, they know what you are doing here and that you have cash. I recommend doing as we did, before exiting the airport for the final customs scan — there are two money exchange places. Exchange bigger amount at once, in that case, you can avoid exchange fees and other made-up small commission payments. For the first part of the trip, we had to exchange around 350 EUR for the local currency in case we would need to pay somewhere outside of the airport. We have pre-booked our taxi driver online from the website called taxi2airport.com. These guys were super professional, quite cheap because we pre-paid for the whole taxi in advance by online payment, so you don’t need to deal with any cash at the moment of arrival, especially if you don’t have any local currency yet. As I had to commute a couple of times back and forth to this airport due to the drama of the drone. Expect to pay approximately for one taxi ride one way around 20–25 EUR.
Eventually, we got to our hotel. On booking.com this hotel had quite good reviews and we were not disappointed. The hotel looked charming. It had a swimming pool, a huge breakfast/dinner place. We personally took only breakfast as we were not planning to spend the days only by the poll and at the hotel. The breakfast was amazing. Loads of options for everyone’s taste really. Might be missing a little bit of variety of fruit. But besides that, everything was perfect. To save the plastic, bring your own water bottle, they provide clean water at the restaurant and I had no problems refilling it. Besides that, if you are not from that region, you cannot drink tap water anywhere in the country. The first day as we were a little bit tired from our travelling we spent in the hotel, just checking out the beach which is was literally 10 meters from the hotel. I am not kidding! However, the first days were a little bit cold to swim in the ocean but laying in the sun was no problem. That was it more or less of day one. Did not do much, as planned just relaxed and got familiar with the surroundings.
The day after we had booked our trip via TripAdvisor to explore the city of Agadir. We were thinking about doing it ourselves but unfortunately, Agadir is not the city where you can do everything by yourself in terms of walking. It is honestly one of those places that you would need a local to bring you and explain things, otherwise, it would be difficult to find it on your own. For instance, we have researched what things we would like to see and visit but you don’t have reliable public transportation in the city, you cannot take a small city taxi because it does not drive to some of the places you want to go. A big taxi, I found would be a little bit too expensive because the guy would drive you around but won’t tell you things. Therefore, we booked a half-day city tour with a guide who spoke fluently German, English, French & Arabic. I must say that in general Moroccans are good with languages. Since French and Arabic are the official languages, as well as there are so many German tourists, therefore many of them do speak multiple languages. The most common would be French but none of us spoke it and it was fine to get around with only English. We had 4 stops with the tour guide. The first one was going all the way up to the old city of Agadir. An interesting fact that the place where we stayed is only 60 years old. Up until 1960 the original Agadir city was up on the mountain but was destroyed during the earthquake. You cannot walk on foot up there. Only cars are permitted so you need to have a taxi but in this case, our tour guide with a nice minivan brought us up there. So, we visited the old town of Agadir. Or better to say what was left of that town. Honestly, only walls. Nothing else. You cannot get inside of the old city. Up there you will get harassed by locals trying to put the snakes in your hands, asking to ride the camels which I find horrible really. They will try to get you and start telling the stories about the old city and show you pictures. Of course, for a 5 min conversation, we needed to pay. Better don’t. Give your tour guide a tip at the end of the trip if you want to.
After enjoying the view, we headed back down to town and drove to one of the places where they show how they make argan oil. Here are used two techniques. One is for making argan oil for cooking by hands, and the other, using a pressure machine for cosmetics. If you want you can buy something there but as my intuition told me, there won’t be the first and the last demonstration of argan oil on this trip. Spending a short 20 min there we went on seeing another place. This time we stopped in the city centre to admire one of the biggest mosques in Agadir. It was Mohamed V Mosque, named after one of the latest kings of Morocco. If you are not a Muslim, you cannot enter almost any of the mosques around the world except the ones that do allow you. Our guide allowed us to spend some time there make pictures, some videos and then we moved on to the next destination.
The last stop of this excursion that we had was a stop at the heart of Agadir. The famous city market or as it is called in the local language souk. That stands for a market. Agadir has a couple of souks but the most important one is Souk El Had. Our tour guide let us stay here for around 1 hour to walk around, observe and shop if we wanted to. Here we actually got our Moroccan sim cards as we wanted to have a 4G connection and follow maps on our phone. This market offers a huge variety from food to spices to clothes to bags, you name it. It has everything. Most of the times the sellers were nice and talkative trying to lour you in one of their little stands or shops and buy something. I want to say that these guys are true professionals of selling but always have in mind whatever number they prompt at you. YOU MUST NEGOTIATE. What 5 EUR can get you in Amsterdam, it should get you more or less at least 2 or 3 times more in Morocco. You need to work your numbers. In this example, I kind of know that one GB of internet cost around 2 EUR and this is something you cannot negotiate but how much you need to pay for the SIM card? I remember that the first asking price was around 20 EUR per sim card only. They were laughing and then came up with 10 EUR each! Can you imagine? In 2 minutes from 20 EUR to 10 EUR?! I was like sorry guys, not happening. Eventually, we ended up with 7 EUR per card because I couldn’t bother anymore talking to them and getting a lower price. In total cost for SIM+5GB was around 17 EUR per card with the internet for 2 weeks.
After the souk, we were brought back to our hotels where enjoyed late lunch, relaxed by the pool, had a nap because that’s what you do during the holidays! By walking to our hotel we have stopped at one of the stores that were close by, to buy some water and food. One of the guys had a small kiosk/desk next to it and he was offering us to book trips with him. We were lucky because it was exactly what we needed. The following days we wanted to have a half-day trip to so-called Paradise Valley — one of the things that were recommended to see and also the whole day trip to Mini Sahara. The man was starting to offer those trips for some kind of suspicious prices. Again, it was a battlefield of trying to negotiate the prices. He was offering different ones starting at 1500 MAD in total which is something like 150 EUR. I was thinking that this cannot be right. We were pushing back saying too much, then the man was lowering the price, eventually, I used a trick of coming up with some kind of lower price that I saw online. Then the man said alright, let’s agree on 800 MAD each for 2 different excursions for 2 people. As we did not have that much money on us, we said that we will go back to our hotel, relax and later come back with the money. You might think that we got scammed by a shady dude on the street by giving him 80 EUR in total for possibly nothing. However, we had nothing else but to trust the guy. After we also checked the prices on TripAdvisor, and the deal we got, turned out to be very good.
For dinner, we decided to explore a city, we went out by the coast exploring the nightlife of Agadir. The general feeling is really fine. You don’t encounter too many baggers around asking for money and harassing you. Some people try to sell you weed or offer drugs on the street but if you just ignore them, it is generally fine. A great restaurant that we have discovered was the French restaurant we went to for dinner. The restaurant was called L’ardoise Gourmande. The restaurant owner was super nice, they had daily specials. Also, a local cat was playing around which I found cute. One note about most of the restaurants in Morocco — you can smoke inside. This is something I am not a fan of, and I cannot really understand, but if you are a smoker, I get you.
On day three, we got up early and as agreed waited at 8 AM in the morning for the bus driver to pick us up and go to Paradise Valley. I should warn you guys, if you are not the strongest, this trip might be difficult. Unfortunately, this trip is not accommodated for people who have moving difficulties as you need to walk quite a lot once arrive at the destination point. The bus came and it was pretty good with an air conditioning system and comfortable seats. The tour guide was also very fluent in English and told us so many great facts about Morocco, its people, culture etc. This is why one of the reasons I love to use tour guides in my travels because they always can tell you more than any information source online which you probably not going to read and remember anyways. But having someone explaining to you live — is worth it for sure. We spent almost 1,5 hours on the way there with a stop on the mountains to taste and try different locally made honey and of course to see another argan oil presentation. Told you so. After that, we moved on and arrived at the Paradise Valley. Once it used to be an amazing nature reservoir, unfortunately, due to global warming, all the water places you would see on that map, almost all gone.
It was still nice to walk around, see a little bit of nature that Morocco has to offer besides endless hills of sand and dusty roads. In the end, the bus brought us back to the hotel. After that, we have rested by the beach, watched the sunset and came back to the hotel preparing for going out to dinner. We went to a little bit more expensive dinner place that evening (most of the places are more expensive in Agadir, which is running basically on tourism because of it is geographical location). We loved the atmosphere and the food was good, however… we paid almost the same as you would pay in Amsterdam for a dinner for two people. Yeah, that was a bit over our budget but hey… holidays, right!
On the fourth day, which was the last one basically, we had the full trip to a so-called mini Sahara. We got picked up by another driver at 8 AM in the morning and this time travelled by jeeps. You cannot go to those places by your own car because of all of the sand that you simply might get stuck in. The drive was around three hours long with a stop at the pottery place where they showed how they make colourful and amazing traditional Moroccan pots, plates etc. the only thing I liked about these places that they actually inform you quite well about the process of making it and don’t push you to buy anything if you don’t want to. However, after seeing other places in Morocco, where the pottery was the cheapest, so if you are happened to be there and thinking about buying it — why not. After the break, we continued the trip where we met the other two tourists that we spent all the trip together. So, eventually, we understood that negotiating to 80 EUR for 2 different trips for 2 days for 2 people was a really good deal! One of the highlights of this trip was a locally prepared lunch stop in the local Berbers’ place where people lived and worked. We were invited to have a traditional lunch prepared by locals (I should warn you it was mostly chicken with vegetables so please check if you could get vegan options or prepare something for yourself in advance) and were eating sitting on the floor with shoes off. Because those were the traditions. After eating the meals, we finally arrived at a mini Sahara. Seeing the endless yellow sand was quite impressive, of course, it is not an actual Sahara but quite close to. After that, we were going back to our hotels and it was already evening once came back. We ended the day by having a small walk by the beach and visiting a restaurant close by. A great tip would be El Toro, a Spanish food restaurant with affordable prices. We literally paid half of the price in comparison to a previous restaurant and El Toro is located next to the beach. We had the last walk-in surrounding areas and went back to sleep.
The next day we packed our luggage’s, ate our last breakfast in Agadir, went to the rental office to pick up the car, prayed to be safe on the roads and took off to our next destinations!
Check out the video of Agadir I made with some explanation (Back then I was new to Youtube so not my best piece of work but I have improved since then). Let me know in the comments if you want to read more about other locations in Morocco such as Essaouira, Marrakesh and Casablanca.
Originally published at https://www.practical-wellness.com on April 26, 2020.